How to overcome the stress of smart working

A table in front of a window with a tablet and a cup of coffee on it: on social media it is a symbolic photo of the smart worker’s home. Well, it needs to be redone. Not the shot, but the workplace . Debora De Nuzzo, designer and trainer of the consultancy firm DDNstudio explains why: «Natural light is fine in order not to strain the eyes, but it must come from the side. The monitor should be placed slightly lower than the eyes, and the size of the table should allow you to rest your forearms. Caffeine gives a boost of energy, but soon loses the “wake up” effect: better a fruit. If we really want a coffee, let’s make it a ritual: let’s sip it standing by changing posture and detaching ourselves from the video ».

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In short, this smart working , which is called that but it is not, has proved to be a challenge for the health of the 8 million “household employees” since March, especially for those not provided with adequate equipment by the company.

Make a list of priorities to avoid telepressure

“Given the changes taking place, the methods of assessing work-related stress present considerable critical issues: this home working has significant organizational, ergonomic, technical and social impacts” says Patrizia Serranti of the prevention and protection unit of the CNR and member of the board of the Company Italian of Ergonomics (Sie).

Riccardo Martoni, psychotherapist at the Sempione Clinical Center and professor at UniSR agrees: «We have to metabolize a revolution in our daily life. Many, however, struggle to concentrate, absorbed as they are by household chores and the presence of family members. It is essential to be able to give yourself a schedule with clear priorities and objectives; do not give in to the temptation of the refrigerator at hand, maintaining a regular rhythm of past-sleep-wake; cultivate contacts with the outside world. Otherwise, the risk is that home working is no longer smart ».

Disorganized home working creates fatigue even in apparently lighter activities than similar ones in the office. «The video meeting can optimize the work-life balance, but it turns into a great cognitive effort when the connection wobbles and we find ourselves in front of a plurality of faces often blocked in freeze-frame; this affects the biological predisposition to read the gestures, posture and facial expressions of our interlocutor ».

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What is telepression

There is no lack of paradoxes, such as ” telepression “. Luisa Errichiello, Cnr Ismed researcher, expert on the subject, explains: «It is expected that being able to work independently increases the sense of freedom by improving the work-life balance. But according to some studies the opposite often happens: you feel compelled to demonstrate that you are present even if physically distant, feeling the pressure to respond immediately to emails or messages, perhaps without time limits. But this condition of “constant connectivity” can damage health, concentration, productivity. Not only. When technology is the only channel for socializing with colleagues, the so-called “weak ties”, which are important for the circulation of ideas and knowledge, tend to weaken further ».

The personal aspect can also have an impact. “It is estimated that in 2025 75% of the workforce will be made up of millennials, people who are mentally equipped for smart working and who appreciate it,” says Alessandra Rinaldi, professor of Design at the University of Florence and member of the Sie. “The situation of the more mature generations is different”. Patrizia Serranti adds: «Let’s think about the average age of public employees: 50.4 years. Some over 50s have struggled to manage technical issues alone, to use the different call platforms and to exercise the really demanding control of facial expressions when in a video call ».

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Organize the space for privacy and concentration

Let’s clarify: smart working is also born to increase the well-being of the worker and those who have experienced it pre-Covid, prepared, equipped and therefore in a non-compulsory form, know this. As Alessandra Rinaldi observes, «work 4.0 has now undergone a sudden acceleration and for many it will be an irreversible process. The space available to those who work should be more versatile, transformable, customizable, guaranteeing moments of privacy and concentration and avoiding a sedentary lifestyle.

It is not easy to meet these conditions in our homes that are not designed as offices. But new furnishing solutions are emerging : bookcases that include niches suitable for an online meeting, sound-absorbing dividing panels, tables with an adjoining back to allow stretching exercises ».

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Security is crucial . “The information on agile work found on the Inail website gives very clear indications: avoid, for example, working in poorly ventilated or poorly lit rooms and check that you are in a suitable location for your business” explains Nausicaa Orlandi , president of the National Federation of the Orders of Chemists and Physicists and member of the technical-scientific committee for the Covid emergency. «Video terminals are the majority of smart workers and among the main problems for them are musculoskeletal disorders due to posture, oculo-visual disturbances, stress. However, there are other people who work at home dealing with small manual assemblies or with equipment supplied by the company, for example in the textile, footwear or manufacturing sector, with safety risks linked to the equipment they use ».

The question now is: will we continue to work remotely? “The matter is evolving and each company will have to adopt the most appropriate solution, preparing employees for technical and organizational innovations” explains Luca Brusamolino, CEO of the consulting company Workitect. “In the meantime, the old office is turning into a constellation of places and peripheral coworking centers are being created in hotels and libraries”. While waiting for all this to bear fruit and for the impulse to smart working promoted by the Colao task force to be accepted, we can rely on a smartwatch-like device that, from time to time, at the warning of “Get up and walk”, will free us from table & tablet chaining.

 

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